Justin's Debut-Dance Ball: Corrinne Averiss

Illustration by Louisa Glancy @LouisaGlancy
Welcome to Justin’s Debut-Dance Ball, a virtual party to celebrate SCBWI-BI members’ debut publications. This month Justin welcomes Picture Book author, Corrinne Averiss to his ball, and invites her to take a turn on the dance floor, whilst he asks the questions only a newly-published writer can answer!

Thank you, Corrinne, for accepting my invitation to the ball.

Delighted Justin! Hope the canapés are genuinely bite size, I don’t want half a salmon and cream cheese blini stuck to my chin.

So, first off Corrinne, this is your party and you get to choose the music. Maybe a tune that inspires you to write, or a soundtrack that keeps you going with your writing, or simply a piece of music you love to dance to.

Well I love working to Vince Guaraldi Trio  – A Boy Named Charlie Brown and Rozi Plain’s Friend. both have thoughtful meandering moments which really help my thinking. When I was working on A Dot in the Snow I listened to Bjork’s Frosti – so atmospheric.

Many congratulations on your debut picture book, A Dot in the Snow. How did it feel to hold your first book in your hands?

Such a special feeling! An actual book with a spine and pages and your name on it! Takes a while to sink in. And the unique thing about a picture book is that an illustrator has taken your story and brought it to life which feels like such a gift too.

People always say they remember what they were doing when they heard Princess Diana was dead, or that Dumbledore had been killed off. What were you doing when you found out you had a publishing deal?

I was anxiously pacing around outside a café at lunchtime – plucking up the courage to phone Melissa Fairley at Egmont after she emailed saying that she liked my authorial voice, and could I call to discuss my story Floss the Playground Boss! I had no idea if she was going to take the book or just offer me some guidance, so I was trying to temper my excitement. To explain, Floss was the first picture book deal, A Dot in the Snow came second – but Dot was the first book to hit the shelves last October. Floss the Playground Boss is out on 9th March… picture book schedules are at the mercy of your illustrator’s diary and the timing of book fairs.

As you know, Words & Pictures readers are an inquisitive bunch and they want to know how long it took for you to write your book. When did you start writing it? How many drafts did you go through?

A Dot in the Snow was originally a take on the ‘can I keep it?’ pet story, but from the polar bear’s point of view, having discovered a little girl. I worked on this story for about a year I think, taking it to my critique group and even fine tuning with some paid editorial feedback. I then pitched it to an OUP editor at the SCBWI conference one-to-one and that’s how the deal came about. But that wasn’t the end of the story, Dot was revised multiple times before publication… increasing the jeopardy, the exploration of the polar landscape, refining the tone.

Tell those of us yet to be published what you’ve learned about the industry since you landed your deal. What’s it like working with an editor, for example? Were you given tight deadlines? Any disagreements you had to overcome?

I’ve learnt that the world of publishing  (so far!) is full of very lovely human beings – sensitive to their readers' perspectives of the world and thorough guardians of quality. I’ve found all dealings with editors to be constructive, warm and useful. I think I initially found the unpicking of the original Dot story a little difficult - when you’ve worked on your story for so long and got your deal on its strength. But I slept on it, let the rationale sink in… you realise that a picture book is a marriage of words and pictures and what your illustrator brings to that dance (to borrow your theme Justin) may slightly alter the step…. and to make it something beautiful means compromise, but the best kind of compromise because something new and unique is emerging.

A Dot in the Snow is illustrated by Fiona Woodcock. Can you tell us anything about the collaborative process? Did you already know her? Or was she chosen for you by the publisher?

I was introduced to the wonderful Ms Woodcock through OUP who had been scouting for a manuscript for this emerging superstar (check out her debut Hiding Heidi which was longlisted for the Carnegie Medal!) …we met in Oxford with our lovely editor, Helen Mortimer and art director, Kate Adams. We had a really collaborative discussion about the style of book we all hoped to create and its recurring themes. Kindred spirits one and all. Fiona and I have loved sharing the journey of this book, e-mithering one another with thoughts and ideas, polar bear footage, inspiring music and generally cheering on  – I now count her as a good pal and would LOVE to work together again.

A lot of SCBWI-BI members are trying to get an agent as well as a publishing deal. Can you tell us a bit about your own experience? Do you have an agent?

Thanks to the marvellous SCBWI, I was able to meet editors in the flesh and pitch stories directly, so I was looking for an agent after getting my deal on Floss. I spoke to a few – all 100% A1 – and the choice of who to work with was a real coin in the air moment, there are so many strong advocates of authors out there.

How did you prepare for your first school visits or readings? Any advice for other debut authors?

I’ll let you know - I have my first school visit in a week’s time! I did read A Dot in the Snow at two book launch events and my advice (mainly to myself so it sinks in next time!) is to read slowly. It’s so tempting to garble your way through when in the spotlight and leave your young audience wondering why they bothered to sit ‘comfortably’!

The music’s loud enough, so let’s talk dirty. I mean, of course, the ‘R’ word. But first of all, perhaps you’d like to add your own stats to Justin’s Rejection-O-Meter: How many times were you rejected before you found an agent or publisher?

a) 1-5
b) 6-10
c) 11-20
d) 21-50
e) Lost count.
f) Rather not say.
g) I’ve never experienced the crushing pain, sorrow and heartbreak of rejection.

Assuming you haven’t answered ‘g’, do you have any tips to share on dealing with rejection?

Exorcise your emotional response in the form of a rant at your partner/pet/pigeons in the park. Let it go. Then approach the feedback with your head not your heart, being workmanlike about the critique and listing out what you need to address… then go to work! Critique is a gift. And if it has come from a really informed place, you’d be daft to ignore it.

And now, as the music fades, there’s just time to for you to tell us what’s up next for Corrinne Averiss, the author. Are you working on a new project? Or perhaps trying your hand at a new genre?

Floss the Playground Boss launches on 9th March, illustrated by Sam Usher who has just been shortlisted for the Carnegie no less. I’m really looking forward to sharing this in schools and discussing the meaty subject of playground politics; how to cooperate, be kind and empathise with others.

Thank you, Corrinne for joining me at the Debut-Dance Ball. Sorry if I trod on your toes.

Ha! No apologies needed, toes intact. Awkward that we wore the same dress though…Oh, and before I jump into my carriage...I'd just like to thank all the lovely Scoobies who supported my book launch last year: Central West SCBWI for the journey, North West SCBWI for coming to the launch and Ali Oxtoby for waving Dot at the Mass Book Launch.

A Dot in the Snow is published by OUP Oxford. Floss the Playground Boss is published by Egmont on 9th March 2017, available from Amazon and Waterstones.

Corrinne Averiss was born in Worcestershire and raised with love, laughter and library books. She studied English Literature at the University of St Andrews and settled in Manchester where she lives with her husband, daughter and cat. She is a writer and producer in children’s television. A competition she devised for CiTV called Share a Story, has been awarded three children’s BAFTAs. Her first book, A Dot in the Snow, illustrated by Fiona Woodcock, was featured on CBeebies’ Bedtime Stories and in The Sunday Times’ Books of the Year. Her next book, Floss the Playground Boss, illustrated by Sam Usher, is out on 9th March 2017.

Follow Corrinne:

Twitter @CorrinneAveris

Justin Nevil Davies leads two distinct lives. In one, he flies around the world as cabin crew. In the other, he writes middle grade novels with the aim to make kids laugh. Sometimes, his lives converge...then it can get messy. Justin lives with his husband in the shadows of the Forth Bridges. One day, they will have a dog. It shall be named Rufus. Justin is part of SCBWI South East Scotland.

Follow Justin:
Twitter @flyingscribbler  
Instagram @flyingscribbler

Louisa Glancy is a features editor for Words & Pictures.
Contact: writers@britishscbwi.org
Twitter: @Louisa Glancy


  1. Great interview! Really enjoyed it. Funny, inspiring and informative. Well done both of you. And Corrinne, it was my pleasure to wave Dot in the Snow at the Mass Launch. I now have my own copy waiting to be signed! x

    1. Thanks Ali. I remember seeing Dot waved very enthusiastically!


We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.